In this week between Christmas and the New Year the tradition has it that clergy have a week off. This is fair enough. The weeks before Christmas are full of services, visits, carols, etc and we get tired like everyone else. One of us has to work to cover emergencies and as I am going away next week then it had to me and this is not a complaint! I first got left in charge of an entire group of parishes whilst I was still a deacon. That was one of the first times that the actual nature of the job dawned on me.
There is always the chance that someone will die but this year we are inundated. I have two funerals this week. I should have had four but I got a priest from the next parish along to help out. The old people's home that I used to live near, has provided me with the two I will do and and do them gladly.
The next one I was asked to do was of a lady I knew tolerably well. Her friend died last year and she was a drinker and on her own there was nothing to stop her, so she fell down the stairs with the door open on a freezing night and was unable to move so she froze to death.
The next one was a man I knew better than most. I looked after him for years, stayed at his flat before I moved here and nursed him through several illnesses along the way. He had gone into a nursing home a couple of days before Christmas and died very suddenly last night.
We were all informed this morning and could I do the funeral please. Well no and I am glad that I had a reasonable excuse to offer to his family. I shall be out of the country.
There are at least two other deaths that I know of and possibly more. I'm not sure its the freezing weather that hastened their end or just that their time was up.
We in the trade develop a weird sense of humour about such matters. There is a hill not far from the doctors, referred to as God's waiting room...because its where people move to when they are not fit or young any more.
I am genuinely sad for all of them, no less for the folk I did not know as the people I did know.
But we are all going in that direction , some faster than others. Nature is cyclical, Outside my trees look extremely dead but they are not. When we get old we are replaced, but I believe with all my heart that the oneness that is ourselves, our soul, our spark of divinity goes on somewhere , somehow.
So I can apologise to the two I know, whose funerals I am not free to take in the knowledge that they will know as I light candles to take their souls to heaven that I am thinking about them and will still be on the days of their funeral. May they rise in glory and rest in peace.